Evergrey - The Inner Circle

Year of Release: 2004
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog Number: IOMACD 2079
Format: CD
Total Time: 46:09:00

Evergrey's newest album comes housed inside a book. This unique packaging design with a CD sleeve instead of a tray was just a small hint at what was coming once the play button is pushed. The subtle beauty of the cover and interior artwork perfectly compliments the story being told by this five-piece Swedish metal outfit. Though only one original member is left, the ever-present and trademark Evergrey sound is unmistakable and found throughout this sad, tragic story. They have, however, added some elements new to this album that separate it from the rest of their catalogue and to emphasize that they are not a band to stagnate and repeat themselves. This is a concept album based around losing someone to a cult or religious sect and the changes that impact both the victim and the family and loved ones who try to cope with the drastic changes.

The album's first track, "A Touch Of Blessing," starts off with a quiet acoustic guitar that slowly builds in volume and paves the way for vocalist Tom Englund's soft, yet quietly intense vocals. What follows is a combination of machine gun precision riffs and accompanying keyboards that really lays the groundwork for the rest of the disc. In albums past, one of the signature sounds of Evergrey was the huge, pitch-bended power chords and haunting keys. They got away from that formula a bit with Recreation Day and have refined that sound a bit on Inner Circle to create an equally powerful, yet subtly aggressive backdrop for the story. A good amount of heaviness turns up in the songs "In The Wake Of The Weary" and "The Essence Of Conviction" with a return to some power metal groove. The purely metal parts of this album are offset by acoustic guitar and piano to maintain their dynamic range of human emotion.

There is no mistaking this album is a perfect vehicle for Tom's tortured, moving vocals. It's been a real pleasure seeing the evolution of his vocal style from their first album, The Dark Discovery. There is a confidence he projects with every note that I haven't heard before, a confidence that makes you a part of the song and story. He still has the raspy quality in the heavier parts, but it's in the acoustic and softer songs that his talent truly shines. He no longer has to scream to let the listener know he's in anguish, it comes across in an almost whispered voice that has the same impact. On the song "Waking Up Blind," his deeply emotional vocals are getting very close to another Swedish vocalist known for emoting many feelings, Daniel Gildenlöw. That's pretty good company to be in.

The rest of the band has made significant contributions to this album as well. Guitarist Henrick Danhage is the perfect compliment for Tom's guitar parts. They are easily the most underrated axe duo in metal today. Their lead trade-offs and dual riffage highlight the fact this is a complete band and that no one instrument is more important than the others. Keyboardist Rikard Zander has a larger role in this album combining gothicly inspired keys with piano for a rich, dark and deep sound.

Production on The Inner Circle is a mixed bag. While the sound, especially the guitar, definitely has a polished quality and sounds, at times, punishing, some of the parts get lost in a sea of audio overload. Many of the guitar parts were mixed on the same level as the keys making them blend in and become a bit muddy. The backing vocals and some choruses suffer from the same issue, there is sometimes too much going on at once at the same volume. This doesn't happen often and is in no way a distraction.

Perhaps the biggest attribute Evergrey brings to the heavy metal table is their versatility. They have perfected a style that bridges many gaps in several metal sub-genres and brings power, prog, doom and gothic metal fans together. The courage and confidence they show in selecting an instrumental song to end their album displays the characteristics of bands that would be called legends. If Evergrey continues along this path, they will find themselves mentioned among the metal greats, the bands before them that influenced their music and lives. I can think of no better compliment and no better band.

Released in Europe by InsideOut

[This review originally appeared April 2004 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]
A Touch Of Blessing (5:50) / Ambassador (4:29) / In The Wake Of The Weary (4:43) / Harmless Wishes (4:18) / Waking Up Blind (4:22) / More Than Ever (4:13) / The Essence Of Conviction (6:06) / Where All Good Sleep (4:37) / Faith Restored (3:53) / When The Walls Go Down (5:38)

Tom S. Englund - vocals, guitars
Henrik Danhage - guitars, backing vocals
Michael Hakansson - bass
Jonas Ekdahl - drums

The Dark Discovery (1998)
Solitude*Dominance*Tragedy (1999)
In Search Of Truth (2001)
Recreation Day (2003)
Inner Circle (2004)
The Dark Discovery - Special Edition (2004)
Solitude*Dominance*Tragedy - Special Edition (2004)
A Night To Remember - Live 2004 (2005)
Monday Morning Apocalypse (2006)
Torn (2008)
Glorious Collision (2011)
Hymns For The Broken (2014)
The Storm Within (2016)

A Night To Remember - Live 2004 (DVD) (2005)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin SE

Added: December 15th 2004
Reviewer: Scott Pierce
Artist website: www.evergrey.net
Hits: 1295
Language: english


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